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District scores on PACT mixed

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By Jesef Williams

Students in Lancaster County School District produced mixed results on the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test in 2008, which is the last year for the statewide standardized test.

About 5,100 students in the district took the test in the spring. Results were released last week.

PACT covers four areas – English/language arts, mathematics, science and social studies - and features a mixture of multiple choice, open-ended and extended-response items.

Scoring levels are below basic, basic, proficient and advanced.

Students scoring basic, proficient or advanced are performing at or above grade level.

The highest percentage of district students scoring basic or better was in fifth-grade math (83.8 percent) and third-grade English (82.6 percent), followed by sixth-grade math at 80.3 percent.

The greatest increase from 2007 was in sixth-grade social studies, where the percentage of students performing at or above grade level rose 6.8 points, from 69.1 percent to 75.9 percent. The next-biggest gain was a 6.1-point gain in sixth-grade English, from 66.7 percent to 72.8 percent.

The lowest percentage of district students scoring basic or better was in seventh-grade social studies (52.7 percent) and sixth-grade science (57.7 percent). All of the other areas saw percentages of 61 or better.

The largest dip from 2007 was in third-grade math. The percentage dropped 5.5 points, from 79.3 to 73.8.

Third-grade also saw the second-greatest drop. Social studies went from 84.8 percent in to 79.7, a drop by 5.1 percent.

The six grade levels combined with the four subjects gives schools 24 areas to review.

Of those areas, 13 saw improvements from 2007 and 11 had declines.

State results

Across the state, more than 300,000 students took PACT in May.

A higher numbers of students scored proficient or advanced in all 24 test categories compared to last year, according to the S.C. Department of Education.

Science and social studies had the biggest statewide gains.

For example, the percentage of third-graders scoring proficient or advanced rose 9.1 percent. Fifth-graders have gains of more than 6 percentage points in social studies.

"It's good to see these improvements – especially in science and social studies – as our decade of PACT testing concludes," said Dr. Jim Rex, the state's superintendent of education. 'Congratulations are certainly in order this year, for educators and teachers alike – but we have a long read ahead of us."

PACT to PASS

Starting next spring, students in South Carolina will take a new test called the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards, or PASS.

PASS is expected to feature more detailed information on each individual student's performance.

Results will also come back to the schools five or six weeks sooner than PACT.

"These changes are what teachers and parents have been asking for," Rex said. "They will make our accountability system more practical for educators, more effective for schools and more useful to parents."

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152